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LIT                 PERSIAN LITERATURE                133
Al-Biruni1 was badly treated by Mahmud, who
behaved at times like a spoilt child, but he remained
at Ghazna and after the death of his royal patron published
the second of his great works, the Indica. The Chronology
of Ancient Nations had been published thirty years earlier
and dedicated to Kabus. Of al-Biruni it may be said that
in addition to his vast learning he possessed a fine critical
faculty and a sense of proportion, which, combined with
his devotion to the truth, make his writings invaluable
to the student; they almost seem to be the work of some
deeply-read modern European.
Aoicentia.—Abu Ali bin Sina was born near Bokhara
in A.D. 980, and, as already related, won the favour of the
Samanid Prince Noh at the early age of seventeen by his
skill as a physician. When the Samanid dynasty fell he
proceeded to the court of Khwarazm, but was forced to
quit it, as Mahmud insisted on his presenting himself at
Ghazna. Unwilling to do this, he fled by way of Tus to
Gurgan, where he was honourably received by Kabus.
Upon the deposition of the Ziyarid prince he finally pro-
ceeded to the court of the Buwayhid, Ala-u-Dola, at
Isfahan, where he died at the age of fifty-seven.
Avicenna was among the very greatest of the many
illustrious sons of Iran, and by carrying on and
developing the science of Hippocrates and Galen and
the philosophy of Aristotle and Plato he exercised an
influence on the best brains of both the East and the
West, not only during his lifetime but for many genera-
tions after his death ; his books, translated Into Latin,
remained the standard works of Europe from the twelfth
to the seventeenth century.
Pirdausi.—Supreme among the poets at the court of
Mahmud of Ghazna was Abul Kasim, famous under his
title Firdausi, the author of the great national epic the
Shahnama. According to the Chahar Makala, he was a
dihgan or cultivator2 of the village of Bazh in the
1 Browne in his History of Persian Literature, vol. i. p. 97, tells n delightful story
of al-Biruni's adventures at Ghazna,
9 Browne translates this word "a small squire,*' but thia is apparently incorrect, To
quote from a report on agriculture written by me : ** The unit of the plough includes two
men, one of whom is known as the Salar and the other as the Dihgan. The duty of the